Originally published in Cottage Life magazine.
After making a nuptial agreement worthy of Faust, David Gillett was blessed
with matrimonial bliss. But then his cottage began to shrink...
I made a pact with the demons of bad taste at my first wedding shower: In exchange for a happy marriage, I would offer up our tacky gifts to the cottage altar.
I got the happy marriage. And the cottage is getting crowded.
We were caught between a rock and dumpster. Although we were young and carefree, we realized we couldn’t just toss the stuff. Instead, we trundled it off to the family cottage at Juniper Point on Clearwater Lake near Gravenhurst.
Our cottage turned out to have an affinity for these aesthetically challenged oddities. Every rotting board, curling shingle, and rusting faucet silently rejoiced at the arrival of each new piece of junque, friends in the world of the tasteless underdog.
Sisters and brothers caught the vision. Soon, trips to the cottage became adventures in gift discovery: Who brought what, and just how ugly is it? The obligatory pink flamingos took refuge in the bathroom. A satirical Pierre Trudeau bust, cast in plaster, made its way onto our bookshelf, next to the outdated political tomes.
And slowly, even the most hideous bits of the growing collection underwent little miracles of transformation. We forgot that we had once considered the painting “Autumn Goose Pond” too gauche for words. We forgot why we’d ever removed the Hawaiian cups from our home. The ugly duckling became the graceful swan: Juniper Point worked its magic, and in the shadow of the rickety old cottage, even the most inane curios seemed to glow with character. We ceased to laugh; we began to adore; and this eclectic collection of wedding mementos has now become a matter of some family pride.
That’s the upside. The downside, however, makes me wonder why on earth I ever decided to go public: What about the givers? Do they read Cottage Life? Do they visit our cottage?
You bet they do.
And do they know the whereabouts of their thoughtful tokens now that the wrapping paper and niceties are history? Nope.
To help us avoid embarrassment, my resourceful brother-in-law suggested a computerized inventory: Punch in the name of the surprise guest spotted at the dock and the screen would display a warning such as, “Aunt Dahlia: Green plastic frog trio on kitchen counter: Stow in toilet tank.” Or perhaps, “Nutty Gerald: Spanish sword on crest above wood box: Hide behind lime-green beanbag chair.”
But the reality of the situation is this: We like the green plastic frogs and the plaster sword. And besides, the person who gave us the lime-green beanbag chair might show up at the same time.